It was a tough game for the starting pitcher, but home runs and RBIs gave them some breathing room. SSG Landers infielder Choi Joo-hwan had a solid game against his hometown team.
SSG won the fourth game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Doosan Bears 7-3 on April 26 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul to sweep the series. SSG improved to 28-1, 16-0 (.636) on the season.
Choi, who started in the No. 5 spot and batted second, went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs to lead the team to the come-from-behind victory.
With the win, Choi, who is one home run shy of double digits, moved into a tie for second place in home runs with Jose Rojas (Doosan) and Si-hwan Roh (Hanwha Eagles). He also raised his on-base percentage to .522, passing Roh (0.506) for sole possession of second place in that category.
Choi’s single in the top of the fifth inning, when the team was down 0-3, started SSG’s comeback. With the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Choi pulled a two-pitch fastball from Alcantara for a two-run shot over the right field fence. It was his ninth home run of the season, tying his total from last season before May was even over.
Choi didn’t stop there. With the bases loaded and the score tied 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning, he crushed a three-pitch changeup from Alcantara to left field, sending third baseman Park Sung-hwan and second baseman Choi Jung home. Alcantara, who had given up the game-winning run, was completely demolished by the next batter, Han Yoo-seom, who hit a two-run double.
“I didn’t think of it as a game against Doosan, I thought of it as part of the season, and the result was better than I expected,” Choi said after the game. “Last year, I wasn’t very good, so it was a long shot. I don’t care if I come here and hit a home run or not. I’m just trying to take it game by game and do the best I can.”
“In my second at-bat, I was expecting a forkball, but it was a fastball, so I was a little surprised. In my third at-bat, I was looking for a forkball, and I thought Alcantara was going to throw it. Coach Lee Jin-young also gave me some advice. I looked at the direction of the pitch and hit it to left-center field, and it worked out well.”
Although it doesn’t show on the scoreboard, Choi also made his presence felt on defense. He caught tricky balls from Jang Seung-hyun in the second inning and Jung Soo-bin in the sixth. After the game, SSG coach Kim Won-hyung also praised Choi, saying, “Joo-hwan did a great job with the ball and defense, which helped the team win.”
Choi Joo-hwan said, “I’m confident that my body has improved, and I don’t lie about how I take care of myself. During the off-season, I don’t drink alcohol except on special occasions, and those things seem to have made a difference in my body compared to last year, and it seems to be working (positively),” he said.
Choi, who became a free agent after the 2020 season, struggled last year, batting .211 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs in 97 games. He prepared for the offseason more rigorously than ever before, and was inspired by the January signing of Oh Ji-hwan (LG Twins) to a six-year, $12.4 billion non-free agent contract. “There was a good example of (Oh) Ji-hwan signing,” Choi said. After my poor performance last season, seeing that gave me the goal and motivation to say, ‘If I can do it, I can be recognized for my value,’ instead of (just) being envious.”메이저사이트
Choi is having a smoother start to the season than ever before, with a faster home run pace than usual. “I’m not a home run hitter,” Choi said, “but it’s better to have one than none. I thought about my direction, and I thought about this when I moved to free agency,” Choi said. “I’m trying to be the best in one area among Korean second basemen in terms of long ball productivity, and I’m doing it with the goal of being the best in one area, and so far I’m doing well, but it’s not the end of the season yet, so I hope to have a healthy season to make it fruitful at the end.